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Safety At Height - Bad Weather Advice

Working at height in winter
01 February 2019 | Updated 04 February 2019

With the UK having just experienced the severest winter weather so far, Ken Diable offers five essential tips for FMs who have staff working at height to ensure safety as conditions change.​ 

With falls from height the most common accident reported by the HSE in 2017/18, any additional risks such as weather must be considered, writes Diable.

Cold conditions, paired with adverse weather, high winds, poor visibility and reduced daylight can present a wide range of risks. So what to do?


Visually inspect the work environment

Overnight temperatures can quickly drop, affecting the work environment for personnel the following day. In this instance, you should visually inspect the work environment and decide whether it is safe enough for personnel to proceed.



By actively checking weather forecasts, as well as monitoring the outside temperature and conditions multiple times a day, you can estimate how severe working conditions will be – giving you extra time to plan additional safety measures and in some cases suspend work if conditions are too hazardous.


Update your personnel pre-work procedures

Low temperatures can have numerous negative effects on the human body, so when personnel are working at height for long periods of time, it is important to be prepared.

Ensure personnel wear specialised equipment for cold environments, layering up of normal workwear can also be efficient.

Food fuels the body with energy, so it is important to ensure that personnel make breakfast a priority and have regular breaks to refuel.

Schedule these breaks for personnel, giving them ample time to go inside to keep warm, consume hot drinks and rest.


Implement equipment pre-use checklists

All competently trained personnel will know the importance of pre-use checks, for all personal protective equipment and fall protection equipment. Adverse weather can affect the safety and stability of fall protection equipment – for example snow and ice can cause components to freeze, whilst consistent rain can lead to corrosion. By implementing a pre-use checklist for personnel, you can ensure that these risks are mitigated.


Plan for emergencies and rescues

Personnel should be aware of your site-specific emergency procedures if an incident was to occur at height. It is imperative to ensure that all personnel who are working in high risk areas not only fully understand these procedures and plans but are also trained and competent to undertake a rescue if required. Regular refresher training courses will further ensure this.

Also consider how your building’s structure could also have an impact on personnel working at height in winter weather conditions – for example, a gutter system which is full of debris or ice can begin to overflow onto the roof space if not correctly maintained, causing slip hazards for personnel, especially if frozen.

Ken Diable, Managing Director of Heightsafe Systems.

Picture: Should your staff working at height in the winter take the same precautions as someone scaling the snowy peaks?

Article written by Ken Diable | Published 01 February 2019


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